The Nordic Africa Institute


Covid-19 and the Future of Transitional Justice – a webinar with Howard Varney

A mural wall with the Bill of rights text

Bill of Rights on the wall of the remains of the old prison in Durban, South Africa. Credit: bistandsaktuelt (Flickr)

Time • 25 Jun 2020 14:30 - 16:30
Place • Zoom Platform

The Coronavirus pandemic has the potential to open the door to future conflict. Many governments have exploited the crisis to centralise political power and discard democratic checks and balances in order to further marginalise political opponents. They may be reluctant to relinquish such powers and measures.

With the pandemic resulting in rapidly shifting priorities, the focus on human rights and transitional justice is slipping down national and international agendas. However, practitioners in these fields still have a critical role to play in monitoring excesses, identifying potential causes of future conflict and pushing for guarantees of non-recurrence.

Watch the recorded webinar here:


  • Dr. Therese Sjömander Magnusson, Director, The Nordic Africa Institute.

COVID-19 and transitional justice

  • Mr. Howard Varney, International Centre for Transitional Justice.

Q&A, moderated by:

  • Dr. Nadira Omarjee, Senior Researcher, African Scholar Programme, The Nordic Africa Institute.


  • Dr. Henning Melber, Senior Research Associate, The Nordic Africa Institute.
  1. The significance of transitional justice in post-apartheid South Africa
  2. The Covid-19 crisis has the potential to dislodge transitional justice from national and international agendas. Indeed it may be that transitional justice drops off entirely from some of these agendas (including donor agendas). The challenge in Africa and elsewhere is how to ensure this does not happen.
  3. In Africa, and around the world, practitioners need to carefully assess the potential for the crisis to open the door for conflict; and what needs to be done to prevent conflict. Current developments could be laying the seeds for future conflict and violence. In this regard: - Some Covid combating measures go beyond what is strictly required, including: centralising political power, unduly infringing fundamental rights (including excessive security force action), excluding democratic oversight and marginalising political opponents and civil society. - Some political leaders may be reluctant to relinquish such powers once the pandemic subsides.
  4. The crisis highlights how little attention (outside of specific reparations programs) has been paid in the past by transitional justice practitioners to health and access to healthcare in society; and how shortcomings in healthcare may have contributed to conflict.

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